Yesterday I headed to the orthopedic doctor for a simple exam on an old injury: I blew out my knee while playing volleyball 10 years ago, and he was the skilled surgeon that put it back together for me. Over the last 10 years, I’ve had to give up a few of activities I enjoyed, but have also been able to remain active… as long as I’m careful. My knee has been painful lately, so I went back to him to learn what might be wrong.

The diagnosis was simple: Although most of my body is about 40 years old, my knee is now closer to 60 years old and has acute arthritis. There is a 90% chance it won’t last my lifetime, and I’ll probably need a knee replacement at or before I’m 60. There are ways to mitigate the pain, but the most important thing to do is to limit my activity to a few non-impactful activities to keep it functional until then.

Now granted, I had heard something similar from his assistant about 3 years ago… but I didn’t get the same message. Back then, I heard something like, “Be careful about impactful activities, they could wear out your knee quicker. You can keep doing what you want, but if you play volleyball or go running, it will probably wear out faster.” What did I do after that appointment? Stopped playing volleyball…but continued to do everything else I wanted.

After yesterday’s appointment, things were different. Due to either my doctor’s delivery or the fact that I’m more willing to hear the brutal facts about my knee’s reality… I heard it and cried.

I’ve since done some reflection around feedback and the brutal facts. When in life are we not hearing what could be extremely valuable to us? When is it not delivered honestly enough, and we don’t hear the true message? When are we not stepping up and giving others the true brutal facts in order for them to be most successful at what they CAN do?

A great concept from a book I love goes something like this:

The one receiving the feedback is the one determining if it will be constructive or not – not the one delivering it.

Telling people things they don’t want to hear is terrible. In my job, it totally sucks to have to tell someone that their team doesn’t trust them or they have been managing one person completely wrong for 8 years. But as much as it sucks for me, I have to remember that it’s harder for them. They have the painful acceptance and the longer journey. But at least now they KNOW there is a journey and something to accept. Now they have options, when before – they only had never-ending problems.

And what about if you? Have you been on the receiving end of those brutal facts or tough feedback? What is your natural reaction, and is it serving you?

Do you look up and place blame on others or external circumstance, or do you take it in and feel the pain of realization that it could be true?

When someone shares this brutal and painful information with you, you have a choice: 

You can reject the feedback and keep the problem.

In this case, you won’t need to take action or change but you will also not solve anything or grow. You will still have a problem, but you will be able to blame it on another person, circumstance, or situation. No ownership required.

You can listen, accept, and try to OWN your role in each situation.

Is there something valuable you can take away from this feedback? If so, how can it help you create a path forward that will bring you a solution and change? Instead of a problem, you will now have an option for potential change and elimination of the problem. This solution is harder, more painful, and requires you to be a much bigger person.

And what about my knee? The truth hurt that day. But I’m not on the operating table, and I’m still walking. My doctor didn’t say, “Stop moving and live in a bubble!” He instead said, “Limit your activities to biking, swimming, and walking.”

I don’t like that answer, but it’s the truth. And I currently have a choice: I can ignore him and keep doing what I want…. but will my problem go away? Nope. And I’ll have a bigger problem in 5 years when my knee gives out.

My other choice involves accepting the reality. Accepting that my time of snowboarding over bumps and trying innovative ways of jogging is over. It requires that I finally accept that I’m not the bionic woman – my body has limitations.

But I can live with limitations. When I think about it, I can actually thrive with them once I learn to navigate them correctly.

Limitations are not the end – they are a new beginning with true potential.